LISBON, Maine — The goal all season has been to earn another chance at a state championship.
The Lisbon unified basketball team got there last year but lost in the final seconds. That disappointment has fueled the Greyhounds’ fire ever since.
On Tuesday, the Greyhounds took one more step toward achieving that goal. Lisbon won a second straight South regional championship with a 44-24 victory over Deering-Portland.
After spending the year trying not to look too far ahead, Lisbon now has its sights set on Thursday’s state game.
“I can’t really explain it,” said an emotional and excited Brandon Bartlett, a Lisbon junior. “Last year, I was pumped up and excited and yelling and going crazy. This year, I just stood there and started crying.”
The season of hard work has earned the Greyhounds a rematch with Hampden Academy. The Broncos beat Lewiston for the North title Tuesday. Lisbon hosts the state final at 6 p.m. Thursday. Hampden beat the Greyhounds last season.
“Last year, when we won against Brunswick, and I thought we had a chance of winning it all,” Bartlett said. “When we played Hampden, it was a great game. We put up a huge fight. That final few seconds when they made that layup, it just broke my heart. We played a great game. I’m glad I got that far.”
Top-seeded Lisbon (12-0) showed its experience and depth in pulling away Tuesday. The Greyhounds had eight different players score and had an abundance of contributions throughout the lineup.
“I think it was a good all-around win,” Lisbon coach Terri Tlumac said. “We had some different athletes scoring. Brock Vachon hadn’t been hitting in a couple games, but he really came through today. Our partners really pulled through and helped create the offense for us.”
Vachon finished with 14 points, including a trio of 3-pointers. He had a four-point play in the second quarter that was part of a 10-0 run. Then he drilled back-to-back 3-pointers in the fourth that broke the lead open for good.
“It feels a lot better,” Vachon said of winning a second straight title. “We all enjoy playing together, and we all get along.”
Jake Patendaude finished with 12 points. Wesley Lucas added six and had a couple key hustle plays in the third that helped get the Greyhounds going again. Portland (7-5) got 10 from Matthew Mikklesen and four each from Samuel Garcia Orellana and Jarod Santiago.
“It’s important for the athletes because they all feel the success,” Tlumac said of her team’s balance. “Even if they score one basket, that momentum carries us forward. Our partners really try to help each other score.”
Defense and rebounding was a key part of the Greyhounds’ game. Lisbon limited the quality scoring opportunities that Deering-Portland had. With the outside shot not falling, Deering-Portland had to get the ball into the post. Mikklesen was a threat and scored six points in the first half, but Lucas and Amanda Mason did a wonderful defensive job on him. The Greyhounds also controlled the boards, limiting Deering-Portland to one shot on many possessions while the Greyhounds would get multiple looks on the offensive end.
“Defense was important to us,” Bartlett said. “At the beginning of the year, we played great defense, and I think today we played defense better than we have all year.”
Deering-Portland scored back-to-back to start the second quarter to tie the game 8-8. Mikklesen and Christian Perez had the baskets. Lisbon then finished the quarter with 10 straight points. Vachon had six of those.
First, he converted a nice pass from Austin Fournier as he cut through the lane. Then Jake Patenaude had a jumper and a drive. When Vachon had a chance at a 3-pointer, he fired up the shot but watched it get stuck between the rim and glass. Moments later, he got another try and drained it. He also got fouled and converted the four-point play, making it 18-8.
“I didn’t want it to get stuck again,” Vachon said. “We felt a lot of momentum after that.”
Deering-Portland made a brief surge in the third. Lisbon had a defensive lull and allowed a few open shots. Mikklesen put in a rebound. After a Mason basket, Mikklesen scored again, and Garcia Orellana made it 20-14 with a jumper with 5:24 left in the quarter.
Deering-Portland had a chance to get closer, but on a fast break opportunity, Lucas rushed back defensively and broke up the play. Moments later on the offensive end, he scored on his own rebound.
“He hustled to stop [Mikklesen] and then had a hustle play when he took his own shot and got the rebound and then scored,” Tlumas said. “That restarted our hearts and that carried us through the rest of the game.”
Patenaude added two free throws, and Tyler Halls scored on a rebound to make it 26-14 after three. Then Vachon drilled a pair of 3-pointers to open the fourth, banking them both off the glass and exciting a sizable Lisbon crowd.
“I just shot it to see what would happen, and it ended up going in,” said Vachon, a junior. “That felt good. It was good for the team. We all got excited.”
After Fournier set up Patenaude for a basket, the lead was up to 34-14. Though Deering-Portland couldn’t overcome that lead, it finished the game with a few highlight baskets. Santiago and Malakai Green each hit a pair of shots, and Nathan Murray scored as well. Lisbon maintained the lead with a pair of baskets by Lucas and scores from Dawson Martel, Bartlett and Patenaude.
“We weren’t expecting to go undefeated this season,” Bartlett said. “It’s an honor to have teammates like Ryley Austin and all of them. I’m just happy to be part of this team.”